Who Is Jesus? – Colossians 1:15-20 Sermon – Clearest Christological Passage In The Bible

Intro

Once a Sunday School teacher asked the class, “what is brown, furry, and has long ears?” A student responded, “it sounds like a dog, but it must be Jesus.” The student realized that in Sunday School answering “Jesus” to almost every question can be the right answer.

Our entire faith is about Jesus. We call ourselves Christ-ians, which means “followers of Christ.” But who is He? Who are we following? What is He like? What is His essence? What is His nature?

Today I have the privilege of sharing with you one of the deepest and most theologically rich passages in the entire Bible. It answers that question, “who is Jesus?” Knowing the profound weight and importance of the text I am sharing with you today is a very humbling thing.

Colossians 1:15-20 – He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Many commentators believe this was a hymn or confession in the early church that Paul was quoting. Perhaps so. Either way, we are glad it’s here. It teaches us who Jesus is in crystal-clear clarity. It cannot be divided easily into a tidy 3-point sermon. Instead, we will go through one statement at a time and unpack them. In all, we will look at ten points about who is Jesus.

1. He is the image of the invisible God –

What does it mean that Jesus is the image of God?

The word used in Greek means “likeness,” statue, profile, or representation.

He is not just similar to God, but He is in fact God. They are of the same essence. He is the manifestation of God. Jesus reflects all that God is. He is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, immutable, just, loving, compassionate, holy, etc. God the Father does not have any qualities or abilities that Jesus the Son does not have.

Jesus made it clear in John 14:9 what that means –Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Those who saw Jesus, saw the Father (John 14:9). He is Immanuel, God with us.

Since we can’t see the Father, that results in many questions. What is God like? What would He do?

Jesus being the image of God answers those questions. He showed us God’s character, holiness, and wisdom.

This statement means that Jesus is divine. He is not just a good man or a good teacher. To put it simply, He is God. People could see God. Touch God.

When the disciples worshiped Jesus (Matthew 14:33), He received it, because He is God.

Hebrews 1 is one of the other beautiful Christological passages. And it teaches us the same point.

Hebrews 1:3 – He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

Who is Jesus? Jesus is God. Not a reflection or piece of God, but God Himself in the flesh.

2. He Is The firstborn of all Creation –

This phrase has confused many well-meaning Christians over the years. It has also been used by false teachers to spread the lie that Jesus is a created being.

But this passage and many others, confirm the doctrine of the incarnation, that at the incarnation the invisible God took on flesh and became a man, wholly man and wholly God.

John 1:14 – And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

So what does “firstborn” mean here? In our culture, this means the one who is born first.

But in Middle Eastern culture, the firstborn does not always refer to the one born first, but is used as a title for the person who has priority or rank over the others. For example, when Jacob bought Esau’s birthright, the rank of the firstborn was transferred to him even though he was younger.

The Greek word used is “prototokos,” and can mean “first,” but it can also be used to emphasize one’s rank or priority.

Calling Jesus the “firstborn of creation” is emphasizing His sovereignty over creation. He is not part of it, but He does have rank and priority over it.

Another verse that shows this same concept is:

Psalms 89:27 – And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.

This verse points to the Messiah, who will be given authority and rank over all the kings of the earth. Philippians 2 teaches us that after Jesus humbled Himself to the point of dying on the cross for our sins, the Father will exalt Him in front of peoples and nations. Every knee will bow to Him.

Who is Jesus? Jesus is higher than all of creation.

3. He is the Creator –

By Him all things are created – (John 1:1-4, Ephesians 3:9.)

In Genesis we learn that God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). Here we learn that Jesus did. Some verses ascribe Creation to the Father (Exodus 20:11, Psalm 33:6). Others ascribe it to the Son. The logical conclusion is that it was both.

We can see a glimpse of that in Genesis 1:26, God said, “Let us make man in our image.” Already in Genesis we see the concept of the Trinity taught.

John 1:1-3 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.

He created everything that is not God.

When I was a teacher, I taught a class at 9:15 AM. Another teacher could also say she taught the class. Who taught it? Both of us did. We did it together. Both statements are accurate.

So who is Jesus? He is the Creator. His creation is ex-nihilo. That means that He created out of nothing. When people create things, we take something that already exists and reform it into something new. God is the only one who can create ex-nihilo.

And He created all things for Him.

These two little words are a very important addendum to this treatise on creation and Christ. From these words we know the reason the world was created. It was not created primarily for your enjoyment, although God does want us to enjoy it. It was not created primarily for your consumption, although you can consume some parts of it. It was not created primarily for people, although people are the highest of all God’s creation. It was created for Himself.

Christ created this world primarily for His own glory and His own pleasure. Psalm 19 says that the “heavens declare the glory of God.”

That means that you are not the center of the universe. He is. Turn to your neighbor and say, “it is not about you.” And reply, “It is about Him.”

If He was an evil master, that would be terrible news for us. But He is a good master. And He cares for us to the extent that He even laid down His life for His sheep (His creation).

Although God has created this world for Himself, He doesn’t forget us. He designed this world and us in such a way that we get maximum enjoyment and maximum benefit as we give him maximum glory. It’s a win-win situation!

Since the universe was made for Him, what is the application for us?

Application: Have you acknowledged in your heart of hearts that you were indeed created for serving God? Or do you resist this?

There is something in our sinful hearts that rebels against the idea that we were created for Him.

The very first sin was rebellion against God’s authority. They wanted to serve their own interests, rather than God’s. What they didn’t realize is that the two were perfectly aligned. What pleases God is also best for you.

Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Creator who made us. And he made us to serve Him.

Are you living your life in light of that truth? Which part of your life are you living for yourself? Think about that a moment. Confess that before the Lord this morning. And affirm your belief that you were created for Him.

4. He is Supreme –

Colossians 1:17 – He is before all things.

Jesus is superior to everything else in this world. He has the priority.

There will be many times in our lives when we need to make a decision between two choices.

What are your priorities?

For example, we may need to choose between career and family or mother and wife. When we face decisions like that, we will have to answer the question, “which one has the priority?” If you choose career over family, that won’t end well. If you choose mother over wife that also will not end well.

We will face the same type of decisions in regards to Christ. Career or Christ, pleasure or Christ, convenience or Christ? Comfort or Christ? Paul is telling us that Jesus IS before all things. He has the priority. He IS more important than these things. The question is, will we recognize this truth when we make these decisions?

I heard one preacher say that he laughs whenever he hears the phrase “make Christ Lord of your life.” Christ is already the Lord. The question is not if He is the Lord, but it is if we will treat Him as Lord.

Application: Is Christ the priority of your life? You can examine someone’s priorities by the choices they make. How they spend their money. What they make time for or what they are “too busy” for. Let our lives reflect the fact that Christ is before all things.

5. He is the Sustainer –

“In Him all things hold together”

In previous verses we learned that Jesus is the Creator. The whole world around us was created by Him. Yet His relationship with this universe didn’t end there. He didn’t start the process and then let human decisions and the natural laws he set up take over. Deists believe that.

In the 1700 and 1800s, many of the founding fathers of the US were deists. They believed that God created the world and then left it to its own devices. Their idea of God was like a clockmaker who makes a clock and then sets it aside to run on its own or someone who makes a little sailboat and then sets it adrift. Many still have an idea of a god like this. An impersonal force who leaves the world to itself.

Yet here we learn that in Him all things hold together. This tells us that He is still very much involved in what happens in this world. He keeps this world from descending into complete chaos and disorder. The molecules of the chairs you are sitting on are held together by Him. The waters of the sea are kept from overflowing by Him. The blazing hot core of the sun is held in check from becoming a supernova by Him. Your skin and flesh stay together because of Him. So does the flesh of the staunchest atheist. Every second of our lives, we are dependent on Him.

Without Him, chaos would reign and life itself could not be sustained. Without His sustaining power, you would fly into a million pieces.

Think back on the most amazing sights you have seen. What did you see that made you go “wow?” Perhaps, it was the aurora borealis? Or maybe Victoria Falls at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe? Mt. Everest? White Cliffs of Dover?

Well, the purpose of this passage today is to make us take a good look at Jesus and go, “wow!” The universe keeps running because of Him. He is powerful, beautiful, kind, and caring. He is our Sustainer. He is the one we should admire more than anything or anyone else. He is the one we should long to meet.

What is at the top of your bucket list of places to see? (Tell your neighbor.) That is nothing next to Jesus.

So what is our application? Exalt Him. Thank Him. Rely on Him.

6. He is the Head of the Church –

He is over the universe as a whole and He is also over the church specifically. The universe was created through Him and for Him and the church was also created through Him and for Him. This is a simple, but important truth. Christ is over the church.

The head of the church is not any person, whether a prophet, a pastor, no matter how dynamic. It is not my church. It is not your church. It is not the pope’s church.

The head of the church is not any organization, denomination, or institution, including any governments.

We cannot serve two masters. Neither can a church serve both God and government. A church will face many problems and be tempted to compromise if it accepts government control.

There is only one head and it is Christ. This does not mean that leaders aren’t important. Leaders (appointed in biblical ways) are very important and are used by Christ to shepherd and lead this vast body.

Hebrews 13:17 – Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

We are commanded to submit to our leaders. But this is akin to a parent who asks the younger children to follow the instructions of the oldest child while he is gone. The younger children need to obey not because of any inherent authority in that oldest child, but because of the command of the parent, in who rests all the authority over the children.

The church and people in the church belong to Christ, not to us. It is not your church or your fellowship or your convert in the sense that those things belong to you. They don’t belong to me. Or to you. Everything belongs to Christ.

That is important. It changes the whole mindset of how we serve. We should not compete with other groups to get more numbers. We should not demand personal loyalty from those we are called to serve. We should not take offense if someone we have discipled or taught, moves on to another church or lighthouse God has called him to. Because they don’t belong to us.

Some time ago, in one rural village area of Asia there were two preachers. One had been sacrificially serving the community for years. He gave up a career and his own pursuits to serve the Lord. He held revivals. He mentored people. Then a new preacher came into the area. He also preached to big crowds. He also mentored people. His teaching style was a bit different, perhaps more engaging. But the content was basically the same. His persona was more attractive. Soon large numbers of people left the ministry of the old preacher and joined the new preacher’s ministry.

Some of his closest followers were upset. They complained to him, “Our meetings are much emptier than before. You are not as popular as before. You have given everything to this community, and now they have all abandoned you and gone over to this new guy.”

How did he respond?

“He must increase and I must decrease,” answered John the Baptist. John the Baptist understood. It wasn’t about him. It was about Jesus. His entire ministry was to point people to Jesus because Jesus is the head. We must be willing to decrease in every way so that all the spotlight, all the glory, all the praise is on Jesus.

7. He is the beginning –

He existed from the beginning. John said, “in the beginning was the Word.” He is the cause of this world. He is the cause of our physical life. He is the cause of our spiritual life.

When you see a ball rolling down the street, you might ask, “what caused that?” Probably a person rolled it. Then you go back, where did the person come from? And you keep going back, back, back. Finally, you would arrive at a point in time when there was nothing except the Trinity. He set things into motion.

Everything we see around us has a cause (cause and effect). But He is the first cause or what theology calls the “uncaused” cause.

8. He is the Firstborn from the Dead –

1 Corinthians 15:20 – But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

1 Corinthians 15:22 – For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

It is because of Christ’s resurrection from the dead that we know we too will be resurrected one day. His new life guarantees our new life. He is the proof that the promise of eternal life and salvation is true. 1 Corinthians 15 makes it clear that if Christ was not raised from the dead then we have no hope and our faith is useless. His resurrection is the lynchpin which holds together the whole gospel and all the promises in the gospel.

If you go back in time all the way to the beginning, Jesus is there. He is like the Mt. Everest, which fills up your entire view. He is the “Wow of all wows.” And if you go forward in time, Jesus is the first one to be raised from the dead. And He is also the best/highest rank (remember that word firstborn can mean either). But that resurrection is also our hope. It is the guarantee of something better. In Revelation 20-22, we can see the final result. Eternal life. Perfect righteousness. Glorified bodies. New Jerusalem. New Heaven. New Earth. He will bring all of it.

Our hope is made sure because of Jesus’ resurrection.

It says here, “that in everything, He might be preeminent.”

9. He will take His place in Pre-Eminence –

” So that He will come to have first place in everything”

At every point in time, Jesus is supreme. He is the priority.

But sometimes there is a gap between reality and how reality is perceived. Although Christ is the Creator of this world, most people do not recognize Him as such. Although He holds this world together, most people do not recognize this or accept it. Although He is the rightful ruler and authority of this world, most people do not submit to his authority or recognize Him as the ruler.

One day this gap between who Jesus is and how this world perceives Him will be bridged. One day we will see Him as He really is (1 John 3:2.) One day in the future every person will bow the knee to Christ and confess that He is the Lord (Philippians 3:10-12).

He is the Lord already. Let’s make sure that we are putting Him in first place in our lives.

10. He is 100% God –

In Him, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell – Similar to the fact that He “is the image of the invisible God.”

Paul states the same truth in multiple ways to make sure you don’t miss it. Someone might say, “Well, He is only the image of God. That is just something about the surface. He is not really God.”

So here, Paul says, “all the fullness of God” was pleased to dwell, “In Him.” It is not just a surface thing. He doesn’t just look like God. He is God. The second member of the Trinity, who existed from eternity past, as an invisible spirit, chose to condescend to take on human flesh. He did not do this reluctantly or under compulsion, but He was cheerful giver. He gave Himself to us.

Not just a piece of Himself. Not just a reflection. He didn’t just anoint or empower a man. He became one. The Son of Man was not just a shell. He was the living God.

Why did He do this? The next verse gives the answer, for our reconciliation.

In order to represent us, He had to become one of us. In order to save us, He had to be sinless and divine. Jesus is the ultimate peacemaker. He gave up His life to make peace between us and God.

Who is Jesus? He is God.

Conclusion

This is perhaps the richest passage on Christ anywhere in the Bible. But why is knowing these things important? There are many, but I will leave you with three reasons.

1. Knowing Jesus protects you from error.

Almost every single cult in the world, gets it wrong about Jesus. They say He wasn’t man. Or He isn’t God. Or He didn’t rise from the dead. When you are confronted with odd teachings about Jesus, come back here. Knowing the truth will protect you from false teaching and error.

“If you don’t embrace a Christ that is big enough and clear enough, you will be a sitting duck for Christ-diminishing, Christ-distorting philosophy, empty deceit, and human tradition.” – Piper

False teachers will seek to distort and minimize Christ. Have no part of it.

2. Knowing Jesus helps you depend on Jesus.

When deep inside of us, we acknowledge the fact that He made us, that He sustains us, that He every breath we have is from Him, and that without Him we would disintegrate, that makes us humble. And we learn to stop trusting in ourselves, but to fall at His feet and say, “we need you.”

“If you don’t embrace a Christ that is big enough and clear enough, you will stop holding fast to Christ as the great, all-supplying Head of the body, and take up sectarian strategies of self-improvement.” – Piper

3. Knowing Jesus encourages you to worship Jesus.

4. Knowing Jesus strengthens our hope in Jesus.

Seeing Jesus’ power from eternity past, reminds us that the hope we have is sure. Everything He has promised will come to pass. And that hope helps us press on. The bigger Jesus is in your sight, the smaller everything else will be.

Reflection Questions

  • In what specific way will you change your priorities or actions in the next week so that Christ will have His rightful first place in your life and heart?
  • What aspect of Jesus’ character touched you the most today? Why?
  • Besides the three mentioned (protection from error, increased dependence on Jesus, a strengthened hope), why else is having a deep and exalted view of Jesus important?
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